While Virgil Vasquez was warming up before his last start, his Triple-A Rochester teammates were celebrating a no-hitter.
Now, back in Double-A, it was his turn to celebrate.
The Twins farmhand was nearly perfect Saturday night as he pitched New Britain's first no-hitter in 11 years, blanking visiting Harrisburg, 9-0, to complete a doubleheader sweep.
"It was kind of surreal when it was in the air," Vasquez said of Kevin Keyes' popup that completed the milestone. "I was like, 'It actually happened.' And then I gave coach a big hug and we celebrated right in the center of the field as a team."
The 32-year-old right-hander struck out two in the seven-inning nightcap. The only Senator to reach base was Keyes, who got aboard in the second on shortstop Jorge Polanco's error.
"He was lights-out from the first inning on," Rock Cats manager Jeff Smith said. "He went out there, and one thing Virgil always does no matter when he pitches is attack the strike zone and attack hitters. As a manager, this was one of those games you just sit back and enjoy."
After spending most of the season with New Britain, Vasquez made one start for Rochester in which he allowed four runs on five hits over five frames. He returned just in time for his teammates' offensive outburst.
While he wanted the Rock Cats to keep piling up hits in the sixth, Vasquez knew a three-run sixth meant plenty of time for him to think about getting three more outs.
"I'm in the dugout and I'm like, 'Oh I want to do it, I want to do it,' and then I was thinking, 'Well, if it happens, it happens and if it doesn't, it doesn't,'" he recalled. "I really wanted to do it for my team because everyone involved gets to really celebrate in it, and that's what it really came down to when I came back out in the seventh."
The California native needed only seven pitches to wrap up his second shutout in five weeks, with Keyes swinging at the first offering for the final out.
"It's fun. When you're out there, you're smiling, you're with your buddies, they're scoring runs out there," he said. "That's why you play the game, for those dogpiles, for playoffs, to celebrate victories for our teammates. And that was so much fun to be out there in the middle of it, actually."
Vasquez wasn't the only Rock Cat who had a near-perfect night. Reynaldo Rodriguez went 5-for-5 across the doubleheader with three homers, a double, two walks, six RBIs and five runs scored. He helped New Britain take the opener, 5-1.
"He went out there and we could see how locked in he was," Smith said. "Even the walks were as exciting as the home runs because it was on 3-2 counts and he battled."
After homering twice in the opener, Rodriguez staked Vasquez to a quick lead with a two-run shot that sparked a four-run second. He singled and scored in the third, walked in the fourth and walked and scored again in the sixth.
Vasquez also got help from Twins No. 10 prospect Eddie Rosario, who made a running catch of Adrian Sanchez's drive to the warning track in right-center field in the sixth.